Why keeping up with the Joneses can steal our joy

Have you noticed the growing pressure to spend more and own nice things? More and more I feel like we are expected to have a high standard of living.

I think that some of us want the first house we buy to be the one our parents saved up their whole lives for, and the ones our grandparents and great grandparents would have only dreamt of. There’s a lot to be said for being content and grateful for what we have and not needing to have everything all at once.

I am not trying to bag young people or say it was easier in my day. I’m still semi young (😅) and I know not all young people have this attitude.

I know house prices have gone crazy recently and times are hard and we are not all out getting avocado on toast. Some cities are becoming almost unaffordable for even the most basic of houses.

However. I do think that there is unreasonable pressure to have all the expensive things straight away. It is expected, in many circles, that once you are working you’ll buy the nice car, big house, new furniture and fancy tv.

It’s fine if you save up for these things but more times that not, this is paid for on credit or left with huge debts. I hear people all the time complaining about how busy they are. About how they ‘have’ to work full time. About how they ‘have’ to go back to work after having a baby or both ‘have’ to work to afford kids.

For some people, this is reality. They have no choice.

But at the risk of being hated, I’m going to say it anyway. Most of us have choices.

We can buy the amazing new car and have a loan, or we can drive an older one and save to upgrade it.

We can over-extend ourselves and buy a massive house and work lots to pay for it (and will be in trouble if they lose their job or interest rates go up) or we can borrow less than the banks let us and buy something that we can actually afford (even on one wage, allowing for unforeseen circumstances).

We can buy new flashy furniture and accessorise our houses and upgrade to new electronics or we can make do with second hand, saving up for new pieces when we can afford it. We don’t need to buy in to the new technology just because it’s new. We can reduce the amount sent to landfill and environmental impact.

My husband and I often feel envious after visiting beautiful homes. We can’t help but stare at modern, open plan kitchens (ours is old and wooden), gorgeous bathrooms (we have a purple bath and penguin tiles) and outside entertaining areas (we have a tiny deck and no undercover area). We have to remind ourselves that maybe one day we can have this, but it’s not our time yet.

We are choosing to live within our means. We avoid lifestyle creep by setting our own agenda about where our money goes. We decide what is most important for our family and stage of life.

We want to be around more for our children, spending time not money on them. We have less disposable income but are happy to go without some of our wants.

It all depends on who you are comparing yourself with. Are you comparing yourself to the professional couple on a double wage, with a six digit income? What about the single parent living on welfare, struggling to make ends meet? Someone homeless after a relationship breakdown or job loss? A family in desperate need of food, suffering in a time of drought and living in a single room hut with dirt floors? A refugee who has escaped a war torn country, living in a camp?

If we are only associating ourselves with those who are wealthy, or seeing influencers on social media show off their life, our world view is skewed a certain way. I am privileged and have much to be thankful for. I don’t have everything but have everything I need.

Do you feel that there is pressure to keep up with the Joneses?

5 common money myths busted

common myths about money busted

I am writing today about the 5 common money myths. I often hear things said about money that simply aren’t true. Managing finances does not have to be complicated. We tend make it out to be far more difficult than it actually is. I am here to set the record straight on the five common myths about money.

Myth #1. I need to earn a lot to save a lot.

I hear this money myth a lot. You can save money regardless of how much you earn. Open a savings account or multiple ones if you can. Have money transferred automatically to these accounts every time you get paid. Every time you get a pay rise or come into more money, increase your savings rate.

I would recommend you set up a spending account each for you and your spouse. This gives you the freedom to spend it on what you like and allows some financial independence in your relationship. For me personally, we have $35 a fortnight go into my hubby and my account. It’s not a huge amount but it does grow over time. When I get payouts from Cash Rewards and ShopBack from referrals and cash back, I opt to transfer this into my spending account or top up the mortgage.

Pay more to your debt or mortgage than what you are required to (ie above the minimum repayments). Even small amounts extra will add up. You’ll get used to paying more, that soon it will feel normal.

Work hard to build up an emergency savings fund which you can tap into if and when you need to. This takes away the need for credit cards and personal loans. Chances are, if you have money aside, you probably won’t have to use it (Murphy’s law and all). Set yourself an initial goal of $1000, then $2000, $5000, $10,000 and then 3-6 months of expenses to keep you going in case you weren’t able to work. It’s a big amount but you can get there if you keep chipping away at it.

Myth #2. I need to be rich before I can be generous.

This money myth is common and to me, it sounds like an excuse. While yes, you might be able to afford to give more away later, you can start with what you have right now.

Practice being generous with little so you won’t find it hard to be generous with much. If you can’t part with $10 when you earn $100 a week, you’ll find giving $100 or $1000 away tough. Everyone can be generous in some way, even if it is a tiny amount of money and giving more of your time.

Perhaps you could sponsor a child from a developing country. You could write letters as well as contributing financially to build relationship with them. Alternatively you could support a child closer to home by helping them with school supplies, uniforms and fees. You could donate or volunteer at a school breakfast program or soup kitchen. Give money to a homeless shelter or animal rescue.

Marantha Health is a not for profit in Uganda helping to improve health outcomes, and they can always do with more support. Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is another charity close to my heart. They help to save women suffering with preventable childbirth injuries.

Find the thing that makes you tick, makes your heart break or motivates you into action, and give what you can to it. Get in the habit of giving something in whatever season you are in, and increase the amount when you can. Generosity feels good and is good for us! Like gratitude, it is good for our health to practice and enormously benefits those who need it most.

Myth #3. Mortgages last for thirty years.

A big money myth is that mortgages need to last for 30 years. You can pay it off sooner! Change your mindset. Read books, follow inspiring people, listen to motivating podcasts. Get your partner on board and make a plan. I’m most passionate about this myth!

Find a mortgage broker who can help you find the deal best for you (and who understands all the confusing stuff). Look for the lowest interest rate, low fees, perks like offset accounts and the ability to make higher repayments without limits.

Ring up your bank and ask what they can do for you. Question whether they are offering you the best rate on your mortgage. If they play hard ball, threaten to go somewhere else, and follow through if they don’t seem to care (they often find a better deal if they think they will really lose too).

Make weekly or fortnightly repayments on your mortgage Pay more than the minimum. Throw extra at it when you can- tax returns, bonuses, payrises, side hustles, selling unwanted items from your house. Hustle hard and bank the earnings. Just imagine owning your house outright and the money it would free up each pay!

Myth #4. Kids are expensive.

The money myth that kids are expensive is not necessarily true. As parents, you choose how you raise them. I do cloth nappies and wipes, hand me downs, free gear from my local MOPS groups, op shopping, etc. Put your younger kids in the clothes that their older siblings wore. Do free things with them and limit scheduled activities. Let them share a room. Enrol in public school. Buy second hand toys or utilise the toy library.

Spend more time with them, rather than taking them places or buying them things. They just want your full attention and love. Choose experiences that create wonderful memories together.

My toddler loves pushing a little trolley at Bunnings, exploring the creek and sitting out the front watching the rubbish truck come. We don’t have to make it complicated.

As they get older, limit their extracurricular sporting activities, musical tuition and hobbies. They don’t have to go to every single birthday party that they are invited to. Set a budget for presents and stick to it. Buy generic gifts on sale or clearance and put them aside in a gift cupboard. Don’t invite the whole class to a party, instead let your child pick a few choice friends. Alternate a party year with a sleepover year with one close friend. You choose how busy and expensive your children’s life will be.

Myth #5. I don’t need to worry about retirement yet.

It is a big money myth that you don’t need to worry about retirement yet. It’s never too early to plan for retirement. In fact, compound interest is your friend! Start contributing more per pay. Gradually increase this every year or whenever you receive a pay rise.

Put your tax return onto your retirement in a lump sum. If your partner is not working while they raise children, consider putting money into their superannuation every year to claim at tax time and to help them catch up.

Ensure that your family is protected in case you have an accident or health issue. There are 4 things you can do to sleep better at night.

If you can learn to live on a little less now, you can live on a little more later. I for one don’t want to end up retired and broke, worrying about money, unable to have independence or choices or travel. I plan to live in a paid off house, with plenty of super to draw on, and dividends from shares to access. Figure out how you want to live in the future and work backwards with what you need to do to make that happen.

Have you heard any of these statements before? Did you believe them?

I challenge you to dare to do things differently. Go against the grain of our spend now, worry later culture. Be responsible and wise with your money, reduce your spending and live within your means. Surround yourself with like minded people. Feed your mind the good stuff to stay on track. Set high goals and work hard to achieve them.

You’ll thank yourself later.

10 ways to save money at Christmas, so you don’t go into debt 🎄❄️⛄️

It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? For many of us, this season is far from that. We may feel lonely or isolated, grieving those who are no longer with us, struggling with health issues or dread the awkward family gatherings. For some, the added financial pressure is extremely stressful. We often place high expectations on ourselves to perform and impress others or create an unforgettable time for our family.

There are some things you can do earlier in the year to help set you up for a less stressful Christmas season. Here are ten tips.

1. Have a sinking fund. Start saving early for Christmas. Figure out how much you’ll need: presents, food, travel etc, then work backwards about how much per week or pay cycle this equates to. Open up a separate savings fund and nominate a figure to be transferred into on a regular basis (eg. $50 every fortnight). Christmas can feel like it comes faster every year but it isn’t an emergency. Don’t let it creep up on you and stress you out! Make a plan and stick to it. Little amounts throughout the year add up!

2. Kris Kringle. This is popular in many work places and families. Rather than everybody buying a present for everybody, do a simple draw to figure out the one person that each person buys for. Set a limit (we do $30 in our family) and create a wish list of ideas for that person to choose from. This is a great idea for buying for children too – they really don’t need that many presents!

3. Set limits. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend and what you actually want to. Have a conversation with family earlier on in the year and put your concerns on the table if you feel the spending is too high. It is ok to have boundaries for presents throughout the year too. We have $30 for close family, $20 for other family, $20 for kids and $10 for children’s parties. Write down your budget, figure out what you can buy with this money and keep a record of what you buy throughout the year. It’s easy to forget things that you may have bought, and then overspend when you purchase more things closer to Christmas.

4. Write gift ideas. This is especially important for children. Most relatives want to be generous and buy an exciting gift for their child, and want the wow factor. To help avoid excess in your home, try creating a wishlist of ideas. This can be on a website like Amazon or simply a list emailed out with prices and links to the shop. Include a mixture of toys (focusing on open ended or good quality), clothes, books and experiences (eg cinema, bowling or swimming vouchers). See my post on How to declutter your children’s toys for good for more tips.

5. Buy second hand. I love op shopping (or thrifting). Most of my children’s clothes, shoes, books and toys are bought this way. I always encourage relatives to buy things on marketplace or from op shop if they want (eg get a bulk set of Fireman Sam toys for $30 rather than one new truck). I only buy second hand for others with their permission (eg. would you prefer five gorgeous dresses second hand or one new one for your two year old?). This not only reduces cost for people, or gets more for their money, but it also reduces the environmental impact.

6. Limit wastage. Writing lists and doing Kris Kringle can help limit excess presents but how about food? Discuss and plan meals with family, organise who brings what, try not to go crazy at the grocery store before hand. Make salads to go with leftover cold meats, cook veggies in a creamy cheese sauce, make yiros, soups or platters. Use it as a chance to have a few days off cooking. Jamie Oliver has some fabulous ideas for this in his book, ‘Save with Jamie.’

7. Choose your favourites. Covid has certainly changed the way way we live recently and for many of us, has forced us to slow down (see Why adjusting to isolation was hard, but why I’m not ready to come out of it just yet …). As mothers, we often feel pressure to create a magical Christmas experience.

Sit down and figure out what is most important to you and ask your kids what they love the most. Is it Christmas carol events, Christmas lights, visiting markets, sitting on Santa’s lap (or the socially distanced version), snuggling up watching Christmas movies, baking honey biscuits or decorating gingerbread houses? Pick your favourites, schedule them in and create times of rest and togetherness at home. We don’t and can’t do it all. ( The art of saying no.. )

8. Everyone contribute. Discuss with family what you can all bring to ease pressure on the host. Divide up meat, veggies, salads, dessert, drinks and snacks (even bonbons, serviettes and declarations can be brought by someone else if they come early to help set up. It shouldn’t be organised and paid for by one household (in my opinion).

Two years ago, I had a baby on Christmas Eve. I went home that night and made it for Christmas lunch at my parents and Boxing Day at in-laws. Whilst I don’t recommend doing this (😂😂), they made it simple for us. I pre-bought and packed drinks and nibbles, and contributed some money towards food.

9. Limit alcohol. This is one area that can add up really fast. If you enjoy drinking, especially at this time of year, look out for specials the month or two leading up to Christmas. Put some boxes aside (and try not to drink them!) to reduce costs closer to the festive season. Mix up drinking alcohol with water, soft drink, juice, soda stream, flavoured milk or hot drinks if you can.

10. Return or regift excess. People love to give women hand creams or bath lotions. It’s a lovely gesture but how much can you actually use? I regift these items unless I really love the scent. If I take the time to create a wishlist with my child (or on behalf of young children), and the relative chooses to buy a noisy plastic toy that will not last (or clothing that is the wrong size), I don’t feel bad about exchanging this or regifting (unless your children really love it or are old enough to make their own decisions).

This may be seen as ungrateful, but isn’t it worse to open the package, let the kids play with it a week before it breaks or put the clothing in a drawer never to use? It might seem harsh at the time but if you do it quietly, and buy something else with the money for your child, surely that is a better solution.

Ultimately I choose what comes into our house and stays there, as I am the one to pick up and organise all the things. Last year, our boys got so many toys for birthday and Christmas. I took some to my local department store and asked if they sold it and whether they would let me return it. One shop took most and gave me $120 in credit notes. I used this to buy clothing they needed and some toys they’d wanted for ages.

In closing, despite the expensive season that Christmas can be, you can have a say in how prepared you are and how much you choose to spend. Take some time to plan ahead, set your budget and gently communicate with those around you about these plans. Brainstorm together about some changes you can make that will honour the family traditions whilst respecting your financial situation. It’s ok and healthy to have boundaries. We don’t have to do what we have always done.

I hope that Christmas for you this year will be special and with those that you love. ❤️

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20 ways to pay off your mortgage faster

pay off your mortgage

A mortgage doesn’t have to be forever. In fact, many people are paying theirs off in record time. Just imagine what your life would look life if you had no debt, and true financial freedom!

Here are 20 tips to help pay off your mortgage earlier:

1. Interest rate.

Check to see that you are on a good interest rate. Banks are like electricity companies – they apply the lazy tax. They offer good deals to new customers but often not to existing ones. Look around at their competitors and see what they can offer you instead. Go back to your bank and say that you’ll move if they don’t match the other rate. In many cases, they’ll do anything to keep you.

2. Make more frequent repayments.

Pay weekly or fortnightly instead of monthly. I prefer weekly as it feels like less money, and I like to see results quickly! Paying weekly or fortnightly means that you make an extra payment each year without even realising, and this will save you thousands in interest.

3. Round up.

Round up accounts each night or whenever you check your balance. Transfer to the mortgage. Small amounts quickly add up!

4. Need vs Want.

Do you need to live close to the city, in a large house, with a swimming pool? Opt to buy a home in an area you can afford (even on one income- you could lose your job / get sick or injured / pregnant etc). You can always upgrade later. Live within your means. In saying that though, before you buy a house, consider the next 5 years. If you want to start a family, perhaps don’t buy a one bedroom apartment. Avoid moving more than you need to or you’ll just end up paying stamp duty unnecessarily.

5. Get insured.

Make sure you (and your spouse) are covered in the unlikely event of permanent disability, loss of income and death. It is important that the stay at home parent is also covered, so if something happened to them, the partner could pay off the mortgage and be able to stay home with the kids without worrying about money or work. Often superannuation policies cover for this but it may not be enough, or they may not cover for pre existing medical conditions. Insurance is one of those things that you will probably pay for and never use, but this is a good thing.

6. Live without payments.

Transfer any Centrelink (government assistance) payments that you can live without to the mortgage. This might be regular or annual amounts.

7. Live on one wage.

If you are on a double income, see if you can live on one wage (good preparation for having children). Have one persons wage pay the rent or mortgage, groceries, bills etc and the other put all or most on the mortgage (or savings to buy a house). Knock as much as you can off, as quickly as you can.

8. Side hustle.

Any extra money you come into (2nd job, selling things, overtime, tax return, inheritance etc), put on the mortgage. Enjoy watching those numbers go down.

9. Reduce all unnecessary spending.

Write down every person you buy presents for (it adds up). Do you need to buy everyone a present at Christmas or can you do Kris Kringle? Make a limit, say $30 adults for KK and $10-20 for kids. Do you even remember what you were given last year for Christmas?

10. Bring your own food.

Pack your lunch. Bring a coffee to work rather than buying one. Don’t drink calories if you can avoid it (soft drink, juice, energy drinks etc). They are expensive and often don’t fill you up. Opt for a filling meal instead and drink water.

11. Spend your own money.

Don’t use credit cards or afterpay. Live within your means. Use cash and debit cards instead, and keep a list in your phone of things you want to buy. Wait a few weeks and see if you still really want them.

12. Refinance.

Get a good mortgage broker. Check that your mortgage is with the best bank / consider fixing or making variable etc depending on advice.

13. Seek advice.

Consider paying to see a financial planner or advisor. It might set you back a couple of hundred dollars but will save you thousands over the long haul.

14. Learn from the experts.

There are many fabulous authors out there. I’d recommend Canna Campbell’s ‘Mindful Money,’ Scott Pape’s ‘Barefoot Investor’ and Lacey Filipich’s ‘Money School’ books. Read, watch YouTube clips or join one of their Facebook groups for inspiration and accountability. Free Podcasts are a great way to learn more and achieve your financial goals.

15. Budget.

Make a budget and try and stick to it. There are plenty of apps and spreadsheets for this, some that are free and others that cost a few dollars. Others prefer a book and pen. Do your research and find what works best for you and your family!

16. Cash.

Use cash where possible – it’s harder to spend than a card. It seems to feel more real and hurts when you spend.

17. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

If you can’t afford a new or newer car, don’t! Save up and buy with cash. Opt for older (but still reliable). When you can afford it, upgrade. We have a fortnightly direct debit into a savings account for this very purpose. When we need to upgrade, we can use these funds to partly or fully pay for it.

18. Pause unnecessary spending.

Consider putting a hold on luxuries like eating out, drinking alcohol regularly, overseas holidays and even private school fees until you have paid off your debts, and possibly even your mortgage (or at least make a dent in it).

19. Be on the same page.

Try to get your spouse on board too. Watching your mortgage go down can actually be fun (I must be getting old)! It definitely makes it easier if you are both on the same page.

20. Do whatever it takes.

The more you can pay down your mortgage now, the less interest you’ll end up paying. Just because you signed up for a 30 year loan doesn’t mean it has to take that long. Do you want to still be paying it off in your fifties or sixties? Make a plan to pay it off early, if you can. Every little extra you can spare will save you thousands in interest over the life of the loan.

Final thoughts

Paying off a mortgage early takes intentionality, hard work and sacrifice. It is a hard slog. I have never met someone who regretted paying it off though. The freedom that it brings is life changing. We are working towards getting ours gone.

Are you motivated to pay off your mortgage quickly? What strategies do you use? Feel free to comment below.